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Circuit Court Sacramento

Indo Cafe
1100 Front Street

Sacramento, CA

916-446-4008
Closed Monday

5/7/03

The gate!I have to confess to something of a prejudice against Old Town Sacramento. It's my bad, for sure -- Ol' Sac doesn't deserve my scorn, it's just an innocent tourist destination no different from any other*: candy stores selling taffy and other dental-work-inducing forms of sugar, souvenir places with your name on a tiny coffee mug, a token hemp shop (if you will). My prejudice is perpetuated because those I manage to coerce into visiting me here usually mention Old Town as a possible excursion. And I get that sinking feeling and think, not again! What about Sutter's fort? It's an actual fort! What about that wacky portrait of Jerry Brown at the capitol? But the word of Old Town has spread far and wide: It's where we must go. It's like Fisherman's Wharf for you SF residents. The people demand it.

The door!Sure, there are places to eat there, but really! Does anyone actually go to a place like that for the food? You just know it's going to be overpriced and under-spiced, like the airport and other contained environments where your hunger makes you a powerless victim. Thankfully, I was shown the light by an esteemed co-worker, known as Heavy K. An adventurous eater, he harbors no assumptions, and fears not the mullet wigs and message tees of Old Town. He doesn't even fear the weird tunnel you have to pass through to get there, where easy listening jazz is piped in at a thunderous Ted Nugent level, apparently to prevent delinquent teenagers from loitering about. On his advice, we assembled a panel of experts and headed for the Indo Cafe.

The Indo has quite a bit of uncalculated charm. It's small -- in fact, all the seating is outdoors, so decent weather is a prerequisite. It's got a lot of interesting imported items for sale, some of which make sense (shrimp chips the size of skateboards) and some of which don't (snowglobes). But one needs more than charm for lunch, and the Indo delivers in a major way.

FoodThis is one of those places that has photographs of the dishes, making it possible to order something completely unfamiliar without undue anxiety. The food that arrives at the table actually looks even better than the photos, especially because it all smells really good -- plus it's served in a boat! A large boat, at that. The Indo gets high marks for generous portions.

We ordered a variety of dishes. Most intriguing to me was Resoles ($1.50), an appetizer I have never seen the likes of. It seems to be condensed cream of chicken soup wrapped inside a large soft noodle-like skin which is then fried in some way, sprinkled with cinnamon sugar, and served with peanut sauce. I loved it, and the consensus from the team was likewise positive. I thought I knew everything you could possibly do with peanut sauce, yet here was something new. The Indo has an outstanding version -- sticky, spicy and satisfying. Boyoboy, do I love the sauce. And they ladle it on, too. My Gado-Gado ($5.49), which is supposedly a salad, was drowning in the stuff. I couldn't even finish it all, so hearty was this dish: chopped up eggs, lettuce, bean sprouts, and tofu, topped with the aforementioned sauce and a big handful of crispy shrimp chips. Totally delish.

More Food.The Man (Dan) ordered Bakmi Goreng ($5.49), which is a fried noodle dish with lots of stuff in it. He consumed it silently and seriously, cleaning his plate without cracking one joke, which makes me think he liked it very much. See, on a previous outing to a Greek restaurant, The Man (Dan) said something extremely amusing about the many functions performed by high-tech Japanese toilets, which had me chuckling for a week straight. My theory goes like this: A superior dish commands undivided attention, prohibiting the production of quality jokes.

Uh, food?Crazy Izzy and Heavy K both opted for the Sate ($6.99), a straightforward, meat-oriented dish nicely seasoned, served on rice, and topped with fried garlic. You can get chicken, beef, or pork, and it comes on skewers, which is always fun. Crazy Izzy left us early to jog back to the office -- he really is crazy -- but not before observing that "the crunchy garlic topping adds texture and flavor without overwhelming the dish."

Tim ordered Teriyaki, which was perfectly serviceable, but the least remarkable of the lot. I think we are all a bit too familiar with teriyaki for it to seem that special. It's a widely available flavor, after all. Tim was probably ordering conservatively to try to avoid the "Tim effect," a phenomenon which has cursed him for years. The Tim effect is when your dish arrives late and wrong, or maybe not at all, and the server gets mad if you inquire about it. Even those in proximity to Tim are vulnerable, so dining with him is a real test of a restaurant's service. I'm happy to report that the Tim effect was completely neutralized by the friendliness and efficiency of the women who run this place.

The dudes.While we ate, Heavy K peppered us with facts about Indonesia. It has the largest Muslim population of any country in the world. East Timor became an independent state in May 2002. It is a nation comprised of 17,000 islands, 6,000 of which are populated. OK, I admit it, I looked that last one up on the Internet.

All in all, a great way to spend your lunch hour. I'll be back to Old Town soon, and you won't even have to twist my arm.

*Notable exception: The railroad museum located in Old Town Sacramento is absolutely awesome and I love it and recommend it to everyone.

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Contact Magistrate Louise at lasqueeze777@yahoo.com

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